Mrs Hunt stood in front of me, one hand splayed on the table, the other brandishing a piece of checked paper in my face. “See these squares?”
I nodded. It was hard not to see them when I could practically taste the paper.
“Good. Now I want you—and you too, Mike—” I turned in my seat to look at him, some Pavlovian trick; hear Mike’s name, stand on tiptoe to scan the crowd for him. If I thought Mike was nearby, I had to know where. Apparently that still applied even when I knew exactly where he was. Mrs Hunt coughed, deliberately, obviously, and I turned back to her, an apologetic smile on my face. “Right. Now I want you both to take your pencils and place a nice, precise dot dead in the centre of each square.”
I gaped. Literally gaped. I’d had some shit detentions before—writing lines, litter picking, even once cleaning the underside of my desk for sticking chewing gum there—but this? This was really taking the piss. What was the point? I just couldn’t see it.
Seeing that we understood, she left us to it, telling us she’d be back to check on our ‘progress’ later.
I glanced around at Mike. “Is she fucking with us?”
His lips pulled into a rueful smile. “Doubt it. Reckon she’s serious.”
I groaned. “No, you’re right. The only sense of humour that woman possesses is an immensely sadistic one.”
“Well, hey, you can just grab a few extra pencils, hold them together.”
“Ah, but then they wouldn’t be dead centre, would they?”
“True. Well then, I suppose we could just …” His gaze flicked to the door. I glanced at the other one, the one Mrs Hunt had gone through, wondering when she would walk back through it.
“I don’t know …”
“Oh, come on. It’s just school. This shit doesn’t stick. It’s not like we’ll get suspended. My sister used to skip detention all the time, and she got all As.”
Outside, the sun was shining, and I could certainly think of worse ways to spend it than out there, with Mike, maybe an ice cream in hand. Like here, for instance, putting a dot in each tiny square.
I scraped back my chair. Mike’s face lit up, eyes glittering with mischief. He grabbed his bag and jacket and together we ventured out in the sunlight, running as fast as we could around the maths block, past the drama studio, and out the front gates into the street.
We didn’t stop until we were round the corner and well out of sight, Mike collapsing onto the grass at the edge of the green, laughing.
“We’re in so much trouble,” I said, sitting down beside him.
“Well, let’s worry about that tomorrow, yeah?” His hand brushed mine, my breath caught, heart stuttered. “Right now, I say fuck Mrs Cunt. Let’s enjoy the sunshine.”
He lay back on the grass, his hand still warm and pressed against mine, pinky to pinky.
We watched the clouds for a while, listening to the birds chattering in the trees, children playing, and the rustle of Mike’s sweet wrappers. I could smell mint, hear his teeth crunching down on them. My hand twitched, little finger settling over his.
He glanced over at me, head turning so he could see me better. “You know,” he said, his tongue darting out over his lips, a nervous habit. “I like you, Jamie.”
My heart thumped, sounding to me like that annoying rabbit from Bambi. I felt all trembly, the way I usually did just before an exam. My throat felt dry. “I like hanging out with you too.”
Mike chuckled, and I caught a waft of mint, almost overpowering. “I mean I like you. You probably won’t want to but … I want to go out with you.”
“Like … go out?” God. Sometimes I sounded so intelligent even I couldn’t understand myself.
Mike smiled. “Exactly.”
I blinked, my mind trying to catch up. Mike liked me? Fuck. What did I say? What was I supposed to say? And why the fuck did he think I wouldn’t want to? Hadn’t I been following him around like some thicko puppy for God-knew-how-long? Why else would I have gone to that stupid tattoo place with him last month, braving my phobia of needles to sit in that bloody chair just to get one that matched his. Even I knew that was stupid as shit, but I’d done it anyway, for him. God, my mother had gone ballistic …
“So … yes or no?”
I huffed out a laugh, and the look on his face crumpled, smoothed out again in a flash although his eyes were still narrowed, guarded. “Yes,” I said, and watched as his mouth pulled up into a slow smile. “I’d love to go out with you.”
“Wicked,” he said, and turned back to face the sky. I did the same, wondering if that was it, wondering what would happen next. A second later I felt his hand settle on top of mine, his fingers curling around my fingers. Suddenly I didn’t care about what came next, happy in the immediate present, with the warmth of his hand on mine and an azure sky above us. I closed my eyes, hoping to capture it, to preserve this moment forever in my memory. All I could think was, I really needed to skip detentions more often.